NES Jardin, member
of the Cultural Center
of the Philippines
board of trustees, is
one of the prime
movers in organizing
18 out of 35 welcome
dinners and cultural
LEO M. SABANGAN II
A weeklong fiesta of romantic serenades, hip-hop, ballet, chamber music, world-class singers, themed dinners, historical tours and shopping awaits the global leaders and delegates attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) leaders’ summit and related events being held here next week.
According to the organizers privy to the preparations, there will be a series of nightly shows beginning this Friday until Nov. 20, which marks the end of the Philippines’ yearlong hosting of the Apec series of meetings culminating in the Nov. 18 to 19 Apec Economic Leaders’ Meeting.
No specific details were given as all those who spoke to Inquirer Lifestyle invoked security concerns.
The bottom line is to showcase Filipino talent, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte stressed.
And because talent is not limited to the television musical kind, there will be dinners and other social gatherings featuring Filipino artistry and craftsmanship through table settings, furniture, floral displays and stage setups.
Raising the bar
Observers are expectedly curious if the group of private entities and government offices handling the cultural presentations for Apec-related events will outdo previous efforts at entertaining international delegates.
A creative team led by former Cultural Center of the Philippines president Nes Jardin is supervising all the cultural events related to Apec.
Jardin’s team works under the Office of the President, the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Industry, Tourism, Finance, Transportation and Communication, Energy and Agriculture, the National Economic Development Authority and the Commission on Higher Education.
Less than a month ago, Jardin had just finished overseeing the Apec welcome dinner for energy ministers at the Radisson Blu in Cebu when a woman delegate approached him.
The visitor, an Australian woman working at the Apec’s Singapore headquarters, told Jardin that the Philippines had “raised the bar” for welcome dinners and cultural presentations.
The visitor observed that the country’s efforts projected “a young, fun-loving and energetic people through a truly entertaining presentation,” Jardin said.
Comments like this are not surprising, especially since foreign delegates who attended the series of Apec meetings in the months leading up to the two-day leaders’ summit have raved over the Filipino brand of hospitality and entertainment.
From Tagaytay to Boracay, Cebu to Makati, private entities and government agencies working under the Office of the President have organized for the Apec delegates carefully crafted and cleverly themed dinners and entertainment numbers that reflect both contemporary and traditional Filipino culture through dance, song, fashion and parties.
Last March at the Taal Vista Hotel in Tagaytay City, for example, the “Blissed Out” theme featured sopranos in Grecian-style gowns singing classical arias and Top 40 Hits, hip-hop artists, drum ensembles and bare-chested folk dancers.
The 1980s-themed “FuntaSea” held two months later on the beachfront of Shangri-La Boracay had senior ministers dancing to ABBA, Gloria Gaynor and Donna Summer beside a coral reef-inspired stage set.
Last September, “Exquisitely Filipino” organized by SM City Cebu treated guests to a Philippine version of Fashion Week as models strutted the designs of Philip Rodriguez, Jun Escario, Cary Santiago, Arcy Gayatin, OJ Hofer, Albert Arriba, Yvonne Quisumbing, Mia Arcenas and Philipp Tampus.
One event expected to stand out is the Malacañang-sponsored gala dinner somewhere in southern Metro Manila where the heads of the 21 Asia-Pacific members are the honored guests.
Given its “Modern Nature” theme, the venue will reportedly highlight furniture designed by the internationally renowned Kenneth Cobonpue.
Heads of states and governments, including US President Barack Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and 18 others, with President Aquino, will sit on Cobonpue’s iconic “Yoda” chairs made of high-quality organic local materials.
The design of the chair has been modified to allow it to swivel, a source said.
Organizers also disclosed that seasoned restaurateurs Glenda Barretto and Margarita Fores have joined forces to whip up a memorable meal for the world leaders.
Another source revealed that the biggest production is an event in another southern Metro Manila venue where 500 guests will be feted.
There will be more than 200 Filipino performers, including singers, modern and traditional dancers, and a chamber orchestra.
In still another gathering, a select group of VVIPs will join a cultural tour that involves shopping for curated, “top-of-the-line” locally crafted products sourced from various livelihood projects around the country.
“The upcoming Leaders’ Meeting will serve as another opportunity for world leaders and their delegations to see and experience (Filipino) talent firsthand,” Valte said in a solicited e-mail statement.
“They will be treated not just to musical performances, but rather the entire experience of Filipino hospitality. After all, our talents extend far beyond singing, to fashion, art, food, dance and so much more,” she added.
Because Filipinos have so much to offer, Valte said the team tasked to highlight culture and entertainment “is making a conscious effort to infuse the Filipino spirit in every aspect—from the food and souvenirs to the cultural performances.”
Valte said President Aquino was “happy” that highly respected business entities like the Ayala and SM groups as well as local government units have agreed to support the government’s hosting of the Apec summit this year.
“In this particular case, you see even rivalries being set aside. It’s certainly a welcome sight that these groups of stakeholders have set aside their differences for the sake of our hosting. After all, in the end, it is the entire Philippines that should be at the forefront,” she said.
High-end hotels all over Metro Manila are doing their own sprucing and beefing up of security as the countdown continues for the arrival of world leaders for the summit later this week.
Earlier reports said President Obama would be staying at the Sofitel Hotel in Pasay City, the same hotel he used during his overnight state visit last year.
The presence of a helipad and the hotel’s proximity to the US Embassy on Roxas Boulevard supposedly makes Sofitel ideal for the US President.
Sofitel told Inquirer Lifestyle in a solicited e-mail that it was working closely with the Apec national organizing committee as it is “within the tightened security area.”
Sources quoted by Inquirer Business also revealed that China’s President Xi would be staying at the Century Park Sheraton owned by ethnic Chinese businessman Lucio Tan.
Russia’s President Putin is said to have chosen the Edsa Shangri-La Hotel in Mandaluyong City.
Hotels in the Makati central business district are said to be hosting one world leader each.
The Makati Shangri-La Hotel, the venue for the Apec CEO Summit and related meetings, will not have a VVIP guest staying as it is the venue for the Leaders’ Meeting.
Cristina Ong Cruz, director for sales and marketing for the hotel, said some the preparations include “additional safety equipment, weekly briefings with security heads, internal meetings and coordination to ensure smooth operations consistent with excellence in our service.”
Hotel Jen Manila will be hosting Korean reporters covering the summit. General manager Edward Kollmer told the Inquirer that the hotel has “doubled” all exercises related to safety and security “so everybody in the hotel would be ready on how to handle and respond given a specific situation.”
Frencie Duadua, Jen’s director for operations, said the hotel has also added and strengthened its Internet bandwidth.
The Henry Hotel, a boutique establishment in Pasay City, is also hosting some Apec delegates. Marketing manager Kristine de Guzman said the establishment stays in tip-top shape to accommodate the guests who prefer to stay close to the airport.
Guests will also receive souvenirs where the names of all 21 member-economies have been etched. “The souvenir is made of metal and the design has people interlinked to one another as a sign of unity,” said one source.